New Zealand alt-rock outfit Bailterspace formed back in ‘87 and were once described as “the Sonic Youth of the Southern Hemisphere”. Having released seven albums and numerous EPs, some via the likes of Flying Nun and Matador, these guys carry well trodden distortion pedals if nothing else.
So now they return to the studio (they haven’t recorded new material for over ten years) and attempt to pick up where they left off. And when I say left off I mean a band attempting to recreate a moment in history that has long since passed.
It starts effectively, with Things That We Found being a slow drudge through muddy guitars and a typically low ethereal vocal from frontman Alister Parker. The group sound suitably frayed around the edges, their experience opening up space for time and reflection.
Yet as Strobosphere progresses there’s a sense of disillusion. When a reformed underground rock band are content to play out a set of songs that hold little originality (this is like a snapshot of the early 90’s through weary eyes), you start to wonder if the musicians are really into this. If a song like Polarize was recorded back in the day it may have had Sonic Youth looking over their shoulders, now it just sounds like a Sonic Youth outtake with its attacking rhythm, overcast guitars and disenchanted vocal.
Closing on the ragged guitar trip World We Share is where new ground, or even relevant ground, is hit upon. The strums finally display an attitude and confidence which in turn allows Parker to slink under the headlights and dig into his own psyche. It makes for the most original moment on the record and leaves me feeling that Bailterspace are not quite done.